Improving Page Speed: How to Make Your Site Slicker Than Snot

By Adam Smith | Mar 2, 2015
More Articles by Adam


Google wants your Interwebs to be faster. Blazing fast. They have done their part to get us there.

  • Google Fast DNS.
  • WebP, an image format that offers 30% greater compression than other formats.
  • Hosted libraries including the ubiquitous jQuery.
  • Published best practices for page speed.
  • Created their own protocol called SPDY, for shooting bits and bytes around the Net faster.
  • Developed a server page speed module that will automagically make your site faster.

Heck, they’re even running fiber to your house.

Sweet, sweet, stinky fast fiber. Download and watch Pitch Perfect in high def in seconds, not minutes. Don’t you judge me. You know you like that cup song too. Go ahead, watch it. I’ll wait.

Side note: Google loooooves the South. Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, and Raleigh-Durham all made the short list for faster Intertubes. You know why? The South is awesome, that’s why.

Matt Cutts warned you.

Page speed is becoming increasingly important to Google. It’s now a ranking factor. Google is testing methods to shame websites into speeding up in search results. A very red “slow” label was being added to search results from pokey sites.

slow-serp

What can you, as the Director of Web Awesomeness, do about it RIGHT NOW?

1) Stop script blocking yourself.

JavaScript and CSS are speed bumps to your content. If you are putting the bulk of your scripts in the header, the browser must download and execute them before moving on to parsing your HTML. Third-party scripts are the worst, because you have no control. Remember that time Facebook went down and crashed a bunch of sites that were using their script?

What you can do

  • Move as many scripts to the footer as possible. jQuery is usually happy living there. Usually. Your mileage may vary.
  • Use the asynchronous versions of third-party scripts if available. Google Analytics has offered an asynchronous version of their script for ages. Use it. Actually, why aren’t you using Universal Analytics yet?
  • Use a local fallback if the remotely hosted script fails.

2) Your pics are so fat, NASA is orbiting satellites around them.

As a web dev, you took great pride in creating your site. The code is meticulous, almost a work of art. Everything has a place and is in it. Happy.

As a web dev, you also don’t have time to do the eleventy billion content updates that your users require. Larry, the VP of Stuff and Things, likes to update his staff page regularly with his progress in competitive eating competitions. Last weekend, he hurled after downing just five hotdogs. Larry kinda sucks at competitive eating. Being Director of Fancy Shiny Web Stuff, you don’t want to spend ten minutes every Monday on Larry’s page.

Larry, I'm worried about your heart.  Try one of these for lunch.

Larry, I’m worried about your heart. Try one of these for lunch.

So you do what any web dev would do and you make the site using a content management system.   You are the WordPress/Drupal/Joomla/ExpressionEngine Master. You bend that finicky CMS to your will.

Larry then immediately uploads a 1.373 gigabyte pic of him stuffing a Nathan’s Hot Dog down his face hole …

What you can do

  • Audit and educate. Check your site for huge images. Give your users the tools and education needed to keep it small.
  • Use a plugin. Smush.it has a great plugin for WordPress that automagically compresses images uploaded to your site.
  • Batch optimize your images. There are a bazillion tools out there. Google it.

3) Get zippy with it.

Modern servers and browsers can send and receive compressed versions of your website. It can reduce the file transfer size by up to 70%. The best part? It only takes a minute to enable on an Apache/Linux site and not much longer on a Windows Server.

What you can do

Let’s wrap this up

Excellent start Director of Killer Websites! You have worked your rear end off today. Guess what? There’s tons more you can do to create a freaky fast website. I’ll just give you a quick list cause you look tired and ready to call it a day.

  • Review your host.  It might be time to get rid of that $2.99 a month plan from HostingDealsForYourSkillz.com.
  • Minifi your CSS and JavaScript
  • Combine your JavaScript into less files. Same for your CSS.
  • Reduce calls to your server by using image sprites.
  • Use a CDN.
  • Leverage browser caching.
  • Use HTTP keep-alive response headers.

Questions, comments, or want to send me a video of you doing the cup song? Hit me up on Twitter @schmack!

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